February 8, 2015 – A View from the Rectory Window

One day after I had just finished a prayer service at the cemetery I was returning to my truck when I noticed a man kneeling at a grave. The man seemed to be praying with a profound intensity and he kept repeating, “Why did you have to die? Why did you have to die?”

I wasn’t sure what to do. But, being in my clerical clothing, I felt it would be inappropriate to walk past this poor soul in such obvious pain as if I didn’t notice or care.

Gently, I hope, I explained that it wasn’t my intention to interfere in his private expression of grief. I told him that, at the same time, his demonstration of pain moved me and I wanted to see if I might offer a pastoral, perhaps prayerful, response.

When he didn’t appear to reject me, I asked him, “For whom do you mourn so deeply? A child? A parent?”

The mourner took a moment to collect himself, then replied, “My wife’s first husband.”

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Okay, so once again, marriage becomes the source of a joke (albeit, a lame one); but I hope today to express my profound gratitude to those whose marriage is an inspiration to me.

This weekend the Church celebrates World Marriage Sunday. How often people will ask me about my vocation; i.e., when did I know I wanted to be a priest. I will often answer with my own question; i.e., when did you know you wanted to get married. For, I believe, the call to love which is central to the heart of marriage as vocation is at the heart of all vocations. Today, I thank all who have responded so generously to this call of love and who have enriched my own.

I am grateful to those married people who love one another in the spirit of Christ, bearing witness to the great commandment to love one particular imperfect human being as Christ loves him or her.

I am grateful to those married people who teach us that fidelity is not simply staying with someone, but also, requires a willingness to grow and to be with their partner as he or she grows.

I am grateful to those married people who so graciously remind me that we all have to go through many stages during the course of a lifetime; such as laying the foundations, having children, establishing careers, emptying the nest, adjusting to retirement, and facing death which draws us all into the process of death and resurrection.

I am grateful to those married people who marry unique individuals with whom they live in a close relationship where conflict is inevitable. In being with you, I see your constant witness of compromise, a letting go which is the path to greater unity.

I am grateful to those married people who accept the gospel challenge to love, to forgive, and to be faithful. I am a better man and priest because of your witness of marriage.

Father Pete